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Miami at UNC: What do the numbers say?

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What Miami’s past tells us about Saturday’s ACC Coastal showdown

Former Miami quarterback Evan Shirreffs eludes the Tarheels’ pass rush during the Canes’ previous visit to Chapel Hill in 2017. Undefeated Miami would prevail 24-19, limiting UNC to just two sacks.
Todd Forrest/SOTU

After surrendering 10 sacks to the University of Florida in last month’s season opener, the question on everyone’s mind is: Will the Miami offensive line and quarterback Jarren Williams bounce back in game two at North Carolina?

The easy response is to compare the UNC defensive front with Florida’s front-seven and how there’s no comparison between the two. The Gators are simply better.

Another favorable stat: The last time Miami allowed more than two sacks to a Tarheels’ defense, Kyle Wright was at quarterback and Randy Shannon was in his first season at the helm.

During that 33-27 loss back in 2007, the Miami O-line didn’t play poorly — allowing just three sacks while Wright threw four picks and came up empty on two of five trips to the red zone. Since moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004, the aforementioned 2007 contest is the only occasion where Miami allowed three-or-more sacks to the Tarheels.

For reference, here are the sack totals and results vs UNC since 2004. Games at UNC are noted with an asterisk.

2004: L 31-28, 1 sack*

2005: W 34-16, 1 sack

2006: W 27-7, 1 sack

2007: L 33-27, 3 sacks*

2008: L 28-24, 2 sacks

2009: L 33-24, 2 sacks*

2010: W 33-10, 1 sack

2011: W 30-24, 2 sacks*

2012: L 18-14, 2 sacks

2013: W 27-23, 1 sack*

2014: W 47-20, 2 sacks

2015: L 59-21, 2 sacks*

2016: L 20-13, 2 sacks

2017: W 24-19, 2 sacks*

2018: W 47-10, 2 sacks

As far as offensive line play is concerned, historically, the Canes have held their own vs the Heels, despite some inconsistent front-fives from Miami in recent years and Butch Davis’ stockpile of defensive line talent during his tenure at North Carolina. The most concerning statistic, however, is that Miami has never beaten UNC three-straight times since joining the ACC. (They currently own a two-game winning streak over UNC) Miami is also 3-4 in Chapel Hill over the same period with its three wins coming by a combined 15 points.

The Hurricanes did score three-straight W’s over UNC between 1959-61, but Tarheels’ head coach Mack Brown might be the only coach in Kenan Stadium on Saturday that was alive to witness it.

Miami After Yielding Gargantuan Sack Totals

Before the Week 0 loss to Florida, the Canes hadn’t allowed double-digit sacks in the program’s history. The previous record of nine came in an opening night loss at Florida State back in 2005, so let’s take a glance at what Miami’s offensive line and quarterbacks did in the sequel to those ugly performances.

2005: Nine sacks in a 10-7 loss at FSU - 13th ranked Miami went on the road 12 days later and scored a 36-30, triple-overtime victory at No. 20 Clemson. Wright, making his second career start, proved an effective game manager, connecting on 16-of-26 for 151 yards, a touchdown and no picks.

The Tigers got after Wright to the tune of five sacks and three hurries, but junior running back Tyrone Moss helped ease the pressure on the young QB with 139 yards and three scores, including a 25-yard game-winner.

2016: Eight sacks in a 37-16 loss at Virginia Tech - This loss hits a little closer to home as the most recent entry to the list. We remember how Miami followed that one, don’t we? By falling behind 20-0 at Notre Dame, nine days later. Yes, the Canes stormed back to take a 27-20 lead before allowing 10-straight points over the final 5:53 in a 30-27 loss.

The Irish sacked Brad Kaaya five times as the junior quarterback went 26-for-42 with 288 yards, throwing one touchdown and an interception. Not only was Kaaya sacked/hurried eight times, but the Miami O-line was unable to generate any semblance of a run game and were held to an abysmal 0.5 yards per carry.

2005: Seven sacks in a 14-10 loss to Georgia Tech - In one of the better showings on the list, Miami bounced back by limiting an average Virginia team to just one sack in a 25-17, regular-season finale victory.

After getting eliminated from national title and ACC Championship Game contention by the Yellow Jackets, the Canes started slow but eventually overcame a 10-3 deficit behind five sacks from the defense.

Once again, Wright was efficient, going 22-for-30 with 248 yards, one touchdown and no picks. The redshirt-sophomore leaned heavily on his safety valves, hitting fullback Quadtrine Hill for a team-high seven receptions and tight end Greg Olsen for a team-leading 55 yards on three grabs. Charlie Jones led the Hurricanes’ rushing attack with 88 yards and two scores.

2011: Six sacks in a 6-3 win over USF - After surviving a 6-3 slopfest against the Bulls, the University of Miami announced they would self-impose a bowl ban, effectively making the ensuing Senior Day match-up with Boston College the final game of quarterback Jacory Harris’ career.

After battling through three months of adversity to become bowl eligible following the accusations of convicted Ponzi-schemer Nevin Shapiro, the Canes appeared uninspired in the final game of Al Golden’s first season in Coral Gables. Harris wasn’t sacked but was picked off four times in a 24-17 loss that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.

A Jake Wieclaw field goal in the waning moments pulled Miami within seven before the Eagles ran out the final 14 seconds following an unsuccessful onside kick attempt.

Harris finished 23-for-39 with 245 yards and a score. Lamar Miller recorded 114 yards and a touchdown in his final game as a Hurricane. Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter also combined for eight grabs and 122 yards in their last college game.

Other contests worth mentioning:

1997: Six sacks in a 28-17 loss to West Virginia - After allowing a half-dozen sacks in a loss to the Mountaineers, Miami was throttled 47-0 at No. 4 Florida State - the ugliest loss in the history of the rivalry.

1996: Six sacks in a 34-16 loss to Florida State - It’s hard to believe that Miami climbed as high as sixth in the polls when they met No. 3 FSU in October 1996. Well, it didn’t last long as the Canes gave up six sacks to the Noles, then proceeded to suffer a humiliating, nationally-televised 31-6 home loss to East Carolina.

1995: Six sacks in a 13-7 loss at Virginia Tech - The Butch Davis-era wasn’t off to a great start with two losses in three games. Things got even worse when the Hurricanes were forced to bounce back from an ugly showing in Blacksburg by visiting No. 1 FSU, where they were destroyed 41-17.